By Chris Lavender
Posted December 5, 2017 at 9:00
Updated December 5, 2017 at 9:07
More than 100 families with children battling cancer celebrated Christmas early Tuesday night at the Spartanburg Marriott, taking a respite from the everyday struggles they face in fighting the disease.
Horse carriage rides, a visit with Santa Claus and family photos were part of the Children’s Cancer Partners of the Carolinas’ Christmas Spectacular event. The Spartanburg-based organization, formerly called The Children’s Security Blanket, serves children and families throughout South Carolina and North Carolina.
Avery Wilson, 11, of Lincolnton, N.C., attended with her mother, Crystal Wilson. Since Avery was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia in April, the family has traveled once a week to Charlotte for medical treatments. Children’s Cancer Partners has helped the family during the process.
“For this holiday, they have had a big donor and they gave gift cards and offered to pay some of our bills for Christmas so we can focus on our family,” Crystal Wilson said. “They have helped us a lot this holiday.”
Children’s Cancer Partners CEO Laura Allen said the event is among the organization’s biggest nights of the year.
“This is a night when children can be children and celebrate Christmas and not think about all the challenges they go through,” Allen said. “About 600 children in the Carolinas are diagnosed with cancer each year, and we work to make sure they have access to care.”
The organization doesn’t get involved in diagnosis or treatment but does offer financial assistance with lodging and travel for families seeking care at facilities nationwide. Children’s Cancer Partners serves more than 200 children in the Carolinas.
Cindy and Brian Weathers of Woodruff celebrated their daughter Ella’s successful cancer treatment Tuesday night.
“It’s been surreal,” Cindy Weathers said. “Ella was diagnosed July 3, 2014, with leukemia. She is in remission now. The last time she was checked, she had no signs of leukemia. The diagnosis at her 18-month wellness check threw us for a loop and turned our world upside down. We didn’t know what to expect.”
Children’s Cancer Partners was encouraging throughout the treatment process, Weathers said.
The organization renamed itself in November and decided this year to expand its services to North Carolina and beyond the Upstate.
Children up to 18 may be referred to Children’s Cancer Partners by social workers at their pediatric oncology treatment centers. After meeting with the child and their family to identify needs, the organization partners with them until the child reaches 21